The Downside of Email

My first job was at Amoco almost 30 years ago. Amazingly, I have had access to email since day one of my working career.  Amoco was heavily invested in technology and had worked closely with IBM to develop the system. See The Networked Business Place for historical context.

dino-648718_640Email as we know it has about three decades of longevity. This is practically a dinosaur in the IT era. And like other dinosaurs that once roamed the earth, many experts feel it is just a matter of time before it becomes extinct. As noted in Is it Time for Email to Go Away?, there are many better ways to manage our tasks, communicate and foster team collaboration.

Email is like junk food: cheap, abundant and familiar. As you work through your inbox and crank out responses to messages and instigate other conversation threads, it can make you feel full and satisfied. That doesn’t mean it is the best choice.

The primary challenge in breaking our steady diet of email is that behavior change requires a group effort that starts at an individual level with each of us. Like with any other diet, we need to sacrifice immediate gratification for a long-term payoff.  The new tools hold promise for more efficient and effective communication. The amount of change necessary to reap the full benefits is definitely easier said than done, but will be worth it.


Congestion on the Internet (not Interstate) Freeway

WI mapI was traveling home from Delavan, Wisconsin via I-39/90 on the July 4th weekend. Fortunately, I was heading north to Madison, not in the overwhelming flow of traffic heading to Chicago and other points south. I have never seen so many cars, bumper-to-bumper over 25 miles of road at speeds no more than 30 miles per hour.

Mobile data routes were similarly congested. SIRI couldn’t even translate my commands, as the airwaves were full. It struck me that in each of those cars, there were likely multiple mobile devices (or even the cars themselves) accessing the data airwaves. This created an invisible level of congestion equivalent to the very visible one. From tower to tower there were hundreds of connections, creating way more demand than the system could possibly have been designed for.

A recent Financial Times article helps quantify how our use of mobile data has changed. A few statistics it cites:

  • Smartphone data usage predicted to increase ten-fold by 2020
  • Mobile video will dominate the world’s internet, accounting for 60 percent of all mobile data traffic in 2020
  • Average monthly data usage per smartphone in North America will increase from 2.4 GB to 14 GB by 2020

The television industry is taking a hit as online video viewing continues to increase. Advertisers are also projected to continue to increase their media spending at online outlets. While oversized HDTVs may be ideal for watching the Tour de France or a weekend football game, it’s commonplace to watch with a mobile device in hand. The consumption of mobile data has become a constant presence, whether we are home, away, or motoring down the road.


Weekly Download 15.12

download-150965_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

If you have $20,000 to spare, how about a new stereo console? What is old is new again, albeit with a much higher price tag.

clippyRemember Clippy? I didn’t think people were still talking about this annoying little thing that cluttered up our screen. But alas, they are.

Paper isn’t dead yet. I like paper (and pens, of course). I even worked in the paper business for a short time. Despite all our technology, we still consume lots of paper, thanks to niche markets that are keeping the industry afloat.


Weekly Download 15.11

download-150965_640

Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

The Science of Why We Talk Too Much (and How to Shut Up) provides a helpful framework to recognize when you’ve gone on too long. Following the green, yellow, red rule is a good place to start monitoring yourself.

I always felt that my education was somewhat lacking in soft skill, people-related coursework.  7 truths about the mind you missed in psychology class was really good and helped catch me up.

No burying the lead in Fast Company’s How email became the most reviled communication experience ever. Don Norman, the interaction design expert and author of The Design of Everyday Things, explains, “The problem is in trying to make email do everything when it’s not particularly good at anything.” I’m sensing that I’ll be writing more about the downside of email in the near future.